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Pump Six and Other Stories
Paolo Bacigalupi

Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage - Elizabeth Gilbert

After my pretty negative reaction to the last 2/3rds of Eat, Pray, Love, I'm as surprised as you are that I even picked this book up. But 1) I'm actually very interested in reading about women who are skeptical of the institution of marriage/actively do not want to be married and 2) I thoroughly enjoyed Gilbert's 2009 TED talk on creativity, which found the balance between the slightly foofoo mysticism and practicality that was missing for me from most of Eat, Pray, Love, as well showing a practicality of "this happened; what next?" that I found v. appealing. She made me want to hear more of her thoughts, even if I didn't fully agree with them, which I found rather remarkable.

And you know what? I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was far more Italy than India or Bali; it was on a topic in which I was already interested (so, you know, spaghetti instead of spirituality); it was engagingly written, and it avoided all the bits of her other nonfiction that made me cringe. It's funny; I deeply resented reading about her deeply personal spiritual experiences, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading her very personal musings on marriage.

Yes, she draws on some more universal research/case studies/etc., but let's be real - this is no Straight (which, for the record, I adored). This is someone coming from a very mainstream perspective - white, straight, cis, upper/middle class, American - and she makes no bones about that. She does a fairly good job of acknowledging that, of at least brushing on the way not fitting into these categories can affect other people's thoughts and feelings on marriage, but that is not at all her focus. I see it as both a strength (precision of focus) and weakness (narrowness of focus) of the book. Hell, I'm just glad the fact that it is an acknowledged focus, rather than assuming this is Just The Way Things Are.

Gilbert skirts a bit close to The Magical Rural People Of Color Are Teaching The Nice White Lady! thing in her explorations of marriage in the small southeast Asian communities in which she (I was originally going to say "found herself," but, no, it was very much an active choice for her) was traveling while writing this book. Still, I give her credit for at least a) being better than she was in the India/Bali sections of Eat, Pray, Love and 2) calling herself out on Nice White Ladyness on more than one occasion.

I think what I found engaging about this book is exactly what I found offputting about Eat, Pray, Love: it is a very personal thought process seen through the lens of something larger/historical.* It just so happens that this time around I'm far more engaged by her personal decision-making process and am more interested in the topic of how and why people choose to perform pair bonds than a search for inner peace.

*Fair caveat - I may be ranking this book higher than it necessarily should be just because I am so. very. glad. that she was a) aware and b) very clear that it was a personal story with research-y context, rather than pretending/tricking herself into thinking it was a research-y examination with personal context. I've been suckered into one of those sorts of books one too many times, and Gilbert's relative transparency about what she was trying to do with this book was delightfully refreshing.